Delivering Aid from Aida


It’s a new year and we’re all a year older. We indulged in rich foods, cookies, chocolates, several serving of pie with ice cream. One night I made hot fudge sauce from scratch for ice cream sundaes with lots of whipped cream.

The TV ads for weight-loss programs have been airing since Halloween. These shenanigans are not worth their weight in kosher salt. I recently saw a nutritionist who proclaimed the average American only gains one pound during the holiday season.

That said, it’s now time to cure the January blahs with some good stick-to-your-ribs, down-home, comfort food. One dish is Moroccan vegetarian, the other salutes shrimp in a spicy Spanish way.

“Ask Aida” is a favorite of mine. The program airs on the Cooking Channel and I often get ideas from watching Aida Mollenkamp, who graduated from Cornell University and Le Cordon Bleu. Noah Starr, her techie sidekick, is an adorable boychick who will eat anything. He fields questions from viewers and sometimes brings Mollenkamp an unusual culinary contraption for her to identify.

A recent show featured a Tagine prepared with Butternut Squash and aromatic spices and Shrimp Piri Piri, which Mollenkamp first tasted in Spain. The tagine is served over couscous while the shrimp dish is served over steamed white rice. Both dishes are light and comforting.

Tagine of Butternut Squash


2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 large red potatoes, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
4 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice
Generous pinch of saffron threads
Juice of 1 large lemon, preferably Meyer
2 cups of chicken stock
1 large handful of large green olives, preferably Sicilian


Melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart pot. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Add the squash, potatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and cinnamon stick and sauté for about eight minutes. Lower the heat to medium-high if the onion starts to brown.

Add the remaining ingredients, bring the contents of the pot to a boil, lower to a simmer, place the lid askew and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are fork tender.

Serve over couscous.

Serves four to six.

Note from Phyllis: You can garnish the tagine with chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves. Pass yogurt and almonds at the table.

Shrimp Piri Piri


3 jalapeno peppers, roasted in the oven, seeded and sliced
4 fat cloves of garlic
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
1-1/2 pounds fresh wild caught shrimp, peeled
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


Place the peppers, garlic, lemon juice and paprika in a blender and whirl until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and blend until smooth.

Place the shrimp in a non-reactive bowl. Pour on the marinade. Toss well so the shrimp are well-coated. Allow the shrimp to marinate for about two hours or overnight. If so, cover and store in the refrigerator.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Add the shrimp in a single layer and sauté them for about one minute on each side. You can add the salt while you sauté the shrimp.

Place the shrimp in a pretty serving bowl and garnish with the cilantro. Serve over steamed rice.

Serves four.

Note from Phyllis: I always buy wild caught shrimp from the Carolinas at Whole Foods when they are on sale. The fishmonger wraps them in 1-pound packages for the freezer. SPR

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